Turkish air-strikes killed four civilians camping in a rural area of northern Iraq's Qandil Mountains as part of a gathering celebrating the traditional Kurdish spring festival, Nowruz. The raid was ostensibly aimed at PKK positions, but local residents said the young men killed in the strikes were all civilians.? Ankara openly threatened this week to mount an offensive against northern Iraq's Sinjar region if the Baghdad government doesn't act against the PKK stronghold there. This is an implicit reference to the Yazidi minority of the Sinjar area, who have formed a militia that is aligned with the PKK. (Photo: Kurdistan 24)
Waheed Mandoo Hammo, prime minister of Ezidikhan, the self-declared autonomous homeland of the Yazidi people in northern Iraq, issued a statement expressing his nation's appreciation and gratitude in a letter to Armenia's Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan after the Armenian National Assembly approved a resolution recognizing the Yazidi Genocide of 2014. Armenia is the first UN member state to formally recognize as genocide the mass killings and enslavement of Yazidis by "Islamic State" forces after their seizure of the Sinjar area in August 2014. Hammo's statement recalled the sheltering of Armenian refugees by the Yazidis during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 to 1917. (Photo: Istanbul march commemorating second anniversary of Yazidi Genocide, August 2016, via VOA)
Thousands took to the streets across Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region to protest budget cuts and the lack of basic services. At least six were killed as security forces fired on protesting civil servants in Raniya, who have gone without pay for weeks. Demonstrators are demanding the resignation of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) administration. Protesters armed with assault rifles attacked the local office of the KRG's ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Raniya, where a curfew has now been imposed. (Photo: Rudaw)
Iraqi government forces, including elite troops of the US-trained Counter Terrorism Service and irregulars of the Shi'ite militia Hashd al-Shaabi, have taken the disputed city of Kirkuk, and its nearby military bases and oilfields. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces take down the Kurdistan flag in the city, and hoist only the Iraqi national flag. Thousands of Kurdish civilians have fled the city, heading toward territory within the official borders of the Kurdistan Region.
Leaders of Ezidikhan, the newly declared Yazidi autonomous zone in northern Iraq, are protesting that a UN Security Council resolution calling for an investigation into possible genocide by ISIS doesn't go far enough. Yazidi authorities are calling for the scope of the investigation to be widened to include non-ISIS actors also complicit in the genocide—presumably including the Turkish state.
As results come in from the Kurdistan Regional Government's referendum on independence from Iraq, Baghdad is rejecting the vote as illegitimate and refusing all talks on the matter. Turkey has threatened to seal the KRG's borders. One deadly clash was reported between Kurdish Peshmerga and a Turkmen militia at a town contested between Baghdad and the KRG.
Baghdad and Iraq's Kurdistan Region are at odds over the referendum on Kurdish indpendence to be held this month. A particular sticking point is the inclusion of oil-rich Kirkuk in the vote—not within the Kurdistan Regional Government's formal borders, but under its de facto control since Kurdish forces occupied the city with the collapse of the Iraqi army during the ISIS offensive of June 2014.
In an historic step for the beleaguered Yazidi people of northwestern Iraq, the Supreme Spiritual Council of the Yezidi Nation has proclaimed the establishment of the "Provisional Government of the Autonomous Nation of Ezidikhan." The provisional government arrives just three years after the Yazidi people faced a genocidal assault that brought them to the edge of extinction, following the seizure of their territory by ISIS.
Civilian casualties from the US-led war against ISIS are set to double under President Trump, according to the AirWars website that has been monitoring the toll of the conflict. At least 2,300 civilians were killed in Coalition strikes overseen by the Obama White House in Iraq and Syria. As of July, more than 2,200 additional civilians appear to have been killed in Coalition raids since Trump was inaugurated.
A new report by Amnesty International charges that ISIS used trapped inhabitants as "human shields" in Mosul, and that the US-led coalition "failed to take adequate measures to protect civilians." The report urged that "the disregard for human life by all parties to this conflict must not go unpunished. Entire families have been wiped out, many of whom are still buried under the rubble today."
The full liberation of Mosul from ISIS has been declared, but at a terrible cost in human lives—and multiple contradictions among the alliance assembled to take the city could open a new war in Iraq's north.
With the Syrian Kurds now facing open war from both Turkey and the Assad regime, the imminent taking of Raqqa portends a multi-sided scramble for former ISIS territory.